Universal Perspectives

by Bridget Booher

While Duke has long valued awareness of world-wide concerns, the emphasis on all things global is now a clearly stated university priority.
Fifteen days after human-rights activist Harry Wu is released from a China prison, he speaks to a packed house in Duke's Page Auditorium. Across the quad at the Sanford Institute of Public Policy, a Bosnian journalist relates personal accounts of war in her homeland, and ponders a shaky future in her new adopted country. This spring, four former Latin American presidents will participate in an undergraduate course on political and economic transitions taking place in the region.

As these and other international authorities are arriving to share their knowledge in classes, lectures, and one-on-one, greater numbers of students are leaving campus--to pursue study opportunities in Bolivia, Russia, Japan, Germany, and beyond. Meanwhile, students are coming to Duke from Turkey, Panama, Colombia, Malaysia, South Africa, Thailand, and India.

These developments are just a few indications of Duke's blossoming efforts at "internationalization." Everywhere you look--faculty and graduate student research, expanding curriculum options, library resources--there is a strong commitment to broadening the university's horizons. While Duke has long valued awareness of world-wide concerns, the emphasis on all things global is now a clearly stated university priority.

In the 1994 strategic plan, Shaping Our Future, internationalization emerged as an institutional imperative for strengthening academic quality. To inspire cross-cultural learning and heightened awareness of global issues, an executive committee on international affairs (in a report called Duke University in an Interdependent World) mapped specific strategies for making Duke "a truly international university."

Peter Lange, named the university's first vice provost for academic and international affairs in 1994, is in charge of overseeing the plan. He says that Duke's participation in the global community is good and getting better. It's made his job easier, too, that so many departments, programs, and individuals had already begun incorporating such thinking into their operations. The Center for International Studies, for example, which traces its origins to the Fifties, has its own panoply of resources that predate (and now complement) other university efforts.

"We have a lot of ships out there, so to speak, and we're getting the whole flotilla heading in the right direction," says Lange. "It's not that we need an enormous amount of central administration direction [to get this going]. It's more a matter of coordinating efforts and providing critical resources in places where they're needed."

Given the dimensions of such an overarching mission, Duke University in an Int'ernational World lists four broad areas of focus: undergraduate education, graduate and professional students, faculty development, and university development. In the year-and-a-half since Lange assumed his post, international activity has accelerated. Some of it has been housekeeping, such as streamlining administrative duties so that individual offices around campus aren't duplicating efforts. (The university's and the medical center's visa offices merged, for example.)

Other improvements have enlarged upon existing strengths, such as infusing the curriculum with more of an international content. Courses like "Comparative Health Care Systems" and "Muslim Minorities in Society: From Asia to America" have, by design, a multinational motif.

With all the steps, both large and small, that members of the Duke community are taking to make the university an international player, it's the students and faculty whose lives have been changed as a result--as well as some of the women and men on campus working to make tomorrow happen--who tell the real story.


From the time he was in fifth grade, Chris Ventry '94 traveled with his family during school breaks. In addition to the annual summer trek to Lake Tahoe, the Santa Cruz, California, family also explored other countries--England, Italy, Africa, Spain. It's no surprise, then, that Ventry eventually settled on a comparative area studies major at Duke. Combining languages, economics, sociology, and political science courses, he put together a demanding, comprehensive curriculum.

Between freshman and sophomore years, he spent the summer in St. Petersburg, Russia, on a Duke study-abroad program. "I immediately made friends with Russians who didn't speak any English, rather than Russians who spoke English," Ventry says. "I learned to communicate with them on a number of different levels: verbal, because I'd studied Russian at Duke, but also cultural and social. It was very, very exciting; I really grew from that experience."

When he returned to Durham the following fall, he took five courses each semester of his sophomore and junior years. By the time his senior year was under way, Ventry needed just two more credits his final semester to graduate. "I didn't want to spend my last semester at Duke just relaxing," he says. "I wanted to continue my education and really emphasize what I'd learned through my major. The first three years at Duke provided a wide, sweeping education, which was great. But spending my senior year [abroad] was a perfect way to culminate that experience by really honing in on what I'd been studying."

With the help of Christa Johns, assistant dean in Duke's study-abroad office and director of foreign academic programs, he secured a spot in a graduate business program at Brasenose College in Oxford, England. His peers came from points around the globe--Tasmania, Canada, Germany--and exposed him to a wealth of cultural customs and life decisions. A number of them had taken time off from school to fulfill military requirements, for example, or to pursue personal goals.

"Education in the United States is somewhat regimented," says Ventry. "You follow this step and then the next. You go to straight from high school to college to graduate or professional school. There is something scary about stepping off that path, but I discovered that it's okay to drop, if not into neutral, then maybe to first gear. Most students don't do that. But it opened up quite a few doors for me."

Indeed, as Ventry finished up his master's of science in economic and social history, he was hired by the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation as a portfolio manager. As part of his two-year training, he will rotate through the bank's London, Hong Kong, and Melbourne offices.

"The interesting thing about this job is that it brings together things I learned as a comparative area studies major," he says. "Comparative area studies teaches you there's a world out there that we can see clearly from a distance, but when you get closer, it blurs. It encourages you to scrutinize what's going on at that level, keeping in mind the global implications."

During the interview process, Ventry discovered that his future employers were less interested in the specific courses he had taken than they were in his broad intellectual explorations. "Outside of Duke, not many people know what a comparative area studies major is, so they were curious about that. That directed the interviews away from academics and toward a more international way of thinking."

Ventry admits that his motivation for study abroad sets him apart from students who view such an opportunity as a time to explore geographical points of interest, rather than as a concentrated educational endeavor. "The joke in Oxford was that LSE, which stands for the London School of Economics, could also stand for Let's See Europe."

There was a time when Ventry thought he'd need to earn an M.B.A. to pursue a career in international business or management. Now, he's not so sure that's necessary. "I was hired at the level of an M.B.A. without ever having had an M.B.A. course," he says. Eventually, he may go into business with some Duke classmates, delve into world health and medical issues, or perhaps seek political office.

Ventry's success at parlaying his scholarship directly into a career is part of a trend that administrators like Christa Johns would like to see flourish. To encourage students to leave Duke's campus and take in more of the world, all freshmen are now required to attend an orientation session about study abroad.

"Most students are still very Eurocentric, and most students go in the fall rather than the spring," says Johns. "Part of that has to do with meeting academic requirements--some overseas universities require that a student be at least a junior--but we want students to start thinking about it early. For the most part, there is something for everyone out there, but it does take planning."

Students' travel plans must fit in with their academic course work and be approved by the appropriate dean or department. Although junior year is the most popular time to go, students have other options. The Center for International Studies, for example, sponsors an overseas summer academic project award for rising sophomores with little or no direct exposure to cultures outside the United States. The awards, designed to complement library or laboratory research while placing students in a different social or cultural setting, have yielded remarkable results. Last summer, one student traveled to Vietnam to study the range and depth of AIDS awareness in Ho Chi Minh City. Another examined the traditional healing practices of the Tarifuna and Misquito peoples in Honduras.

Ironically, though, because such overtures seem to be working--this fall, 345 students took courses in thirty-one countries--Duke has been forced to reconsider the financial and practical implications of hundreds of students leaving campus to study somewhere else. If a student is on a non-Duke program, the sponsoring institution receives tuition money. Two years ago, the board of trustees approved a $1,500 study-abroad fee to cover the administrative costs associated with non-university programs--coordinating transcript and credit exchanges between institutions, registering returning students for courses while they are still abroad, and advising students before and after their travels.

The fee has been criticized by students, who consider it a disincentive, and a committee will study tuition and study abroad. Even with the fee, the university loses money on absent students.

In the meantime, the study-abroad office is looking at ways to increase the number of Duke-run programs. Christa Johns emphasizes the need for prudent growth. "It is very hard to build new programs because you have first to build the infrastructure needed to make them run smoothly," she says. "There are a host of little things that need to be taken care of, and there are larger concerns as well--the quality of the faculty, the rigorousness of the curriculum, and so forth."

One such success story came to fruition this fall. Duke's office of foreign academic programs was chosen to assume management of the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies (ICCS) in Rome. The center, supported by a consortium of seventy-five U.S. colleges and universities, has been managed since its inception in 1965 by Stanford University. ICCS is well-known for its training of young classical studies scholars, as well as students pursuing careers in art history, Italian studies, art dealership, intellectual property law, and businesses with strong international components.

For students like Ventry, the rewards of study abroad are incalculable. "Every now and then I wondered if I was missing out by not being on campus my senior year," he says. "But then our [Oxford] group would meet Bishop Desmond Tutu, or have tea with Bill Clinton, and I knew I'd made the right decision."


Before leaving his native Mexico to study in the United States for a year, Sergio Lagunes had only seen one picture of the Duke campus--a shot of Duke Chapel on the cover of an undergraduate bulletin. When he arrived at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, a pre-arranged ride was not there to meet him, so Lagunes was forced to take a $30 cab ride into town.

Despite the inauspicious beginning, he says he immediately fell in love with Duke. When he discovered late in the fall semester that his Mexican college would not accept Duke credits (a new administration had come in while he was on leave), Lagunes applied for and received admission to Duke as a full-time student. An economics and political science major, he is scheduled to graduate in 1997.

"If I had gone to any of the other schools that are well-known in Mexico--Stanford, Harvard, MIT, or Yale--I don't think I would have had a problem with transferring credits," he says. "I tried to explain to my old school that Duke was this incredible place, but they said, well, that's not good enough for us."

Lagunes says he has found Duke students to be genuinely curious about him and his background. While living in the languages dorm last year, for example, he says he often found himself being "practiced" upon by classmates wanting to improve their Spanish speaking skills. Other peers wanted his opinions about Mexico's cultural and political climate. "People like to get information first-hand," he says. "So I'll talk to people who have only read about Mexican politics in the newspapers, and they are surprised to hear what it's actually like."

For his part, Lagunes is helping to heighten Duke's reputation in his own country. During a trip home, he took about a dozen T-shirts for friends. "Now when I tell people [in Mexico City] where I go to school, they think they've heard of it--although they may have just seen someone wearing a Duke T-shirt. But friends in my old school definitely know about it now. I've also asked the Fuqua School of Business to send applications to friends of mine, and I'm working with the undergraduate admissions office to send applications and information to five Mexican high schools. So word of mouth is very important."

Like Chris Ventry, Lagunes has discovered that leaving home has made him more attractive to prospective employers. "The Mexican job market right now is dead," he says, "but I got a [summer] job with an American-Mexican firm right away because they knew I was from Mexico, had studied in the States, and had a good grasp of both cultures. With NAFTA and all the new regulations, someone who has trained the way I have is very, very marketable."

Because his English is impeccable (the only verbal clue that he's not a typical American college student is the refreshing lack of "you know" and "like" in his vocabulary), Lagunes could easily land a lucrative job at an American multinational company. But he says he plans to return to Mexico and work to strengthen its economy by entering the political domain.

He'll also continue to be an ambassador for Duke, telling prospective students and professional colleagues about his alma mater. "Duke and other universities don't yet have a big name in Mexico," Lagunes says. "When I go back, I'd like to work with high schools and other groups to spread the word. Before I came here, my brother asked me why I'd want to leave home, where I had everything I needed, to come to Duke, which was something of a risk. Now, he wants to come here, too."


To heighten Duke's profile in places like Latin America and beyond, the university isn't relying solely on motivated students and alumni. The undergraduate admissions office has been sending out recruiters around the world, often in conjunction with other colleges and universities. A virtually nonexistent undertaking five years ago, international recruiting now takes the itinerant staff to countries throughout Asia, Latin America, and Europe.

"A lot of our competitor schools have been doing this for seven, ten, or twelve years," says Nancy Donehower, senior associate director of admissions. "I can really see the results of that when I travel with them, because they have a very strong following abroad. We did almost no international recruiting until 1991, but since then, we have seen the applicant pool for foreign students grow very, very quickly."

At the start of the fall semester, nearly 800 foreign students were enrolled in undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools. More than half of those are in the graduate school; 118 are in Trinity College. Because Duke offers no financial aid for foreign students, these international scholars are from wealthy families (and can thus afford the full cost of a Duke education), the top students in their home countries (and may therefore receive prestigious scholarships and awards for studying outside their own country), or both.

"International students are among the most interesting students we have at Duke," says Donehower. "They are sophisticated both in terms of how they view their own lives and how they view education. They don't take this kind of education for granted."

To be competitive with other schools, most of whom offer some measure of monetary assistance, the university is looking at ways to help foreign students finance a Duke education. Not everyone will endorse such a plan, of course. There are those who think that by increasing the number of international students, domestic applicants will have a harder time gaining admission.

Vice provost Peter Lange is not overly concerned by such reasoning. "We're trying to recruit the best students we can. And we believe that diversity is an important component of a liberal arts education. Diversity doesn't stop at the borders of the United States."


If the thought of faculty research evokes images of a solitary scholar holed up in musty library stacks, you need to readjust your set. Duke faculty are all over the world, collaborating with academics at other institutions and presenting papers at distant locales.

A religion professor lectures on Islam and Muslim history in Canada; an art and art history professor examines global issues involved in emerging technologies; a zoologist is honored in Peru for providing local students with research opportunities; a public policy professor addresses the problem of alcohol addiction in Norway. Closer to home, faculty work with their colleagues at historically black colleges and universities on topics ranging from informa-tion technology to international teaching and research.

At the same time, hundreds of foreign academics converge at Duke for lectures and teaching throughout the year. A global forum speakers series brings world leaders and policy-makers to campus. Intellectually speaking, Duke is party to a healthy degree of academic cross-pollination.

It's no surprise that the medical center's expertise has become an export as well. At Saudi Arabia's top public export hospital, for example, physicians consult woth Duke specialists through teleconference capabilities, including real-time clinical discussions and the transmission of such diagnostic images as X-rays and electrocardiograms. The "Saudi-U.S. University Project" is a collaborative effort between the Middle Eastern country and academic medical and health science centers at Duke, George Washington University, Baylor University, and the University of Virginia. Since 1994, Duke specialists in surgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, pathology, pulmonology, and infectious diseases have also traveled to Saudi Arabia to share their skills.

In the De Witt Wallace Center for Communications and Journalism at the Institute of Public Policy and Policy Sciences, international reporters spend one to two semesters at Duke. Originally geared toward visiting journalists from U.S. publications, the visiting media fellows program expanded its reach several years ago and now draws reporters, editors, and radio and television producers from Brazil, Buenos Aires, Moscow, Germany, Warsaw, and Tokyo.

Before war tore her country apart, Bosnian journalist Leila Viteskic was deputy editor of Truth, a journal published by the Institute for the Study of Crimes Against Humanity and International Law, where she was also the chief analyst. Her reports on human-rights violations, particularly the mass rape of Bosnian women and crimes against women and children, appeared in Bosnia's major daily paper and on Sarajevo radio and television.

Viteskic is at Duke for the academic year as a Visiting Media Fellow in Ethnic Conflict and Refugee Studies. She rents a room in a house off campus, walks or takes the bus to where she needs to be, and is haunted by the upheaval in her own life, as well as those of friends and family still in Bosnia.

"I'm not like my colleagues here, because they mostly come from peaceful nations," says Viteskic. "When we get together to exchange opinions, I find that because of my experiences, my approach is always [filtered] through the war.... It is also hard because people here don't really have a clear idea about the situation in Bosnia. It's too far away, and they cannot imagine what it looks like under the siege, with the daily shelling and the snipers, living without water or power. You cannot walk anywhere, because there is no security."

Unable to return to Sarajevo because of threats against her life, Viteskic faces a clouded future. She is most concerned with where she might go when the Duke fellowship ends in December, how she might survive. "I get invited to conferences here and in other countries, but always it's the same thing. Who will pay for me to go? I need to get a job so I can start a new life here, and also to send money to help my family come here."

Frustrated with U.S. media coverage of the war in Bosnia, Viteskic says she wants to complete her research for a book on war crimes. "I have a problem with journalists who come to Sarajevo, stay a few days, and then report on the situation as though they are experts. As someone who has spent three years in the war under inhuman conditions, I have a moral obligation to write about it."

In September, Duke Dialogue published excerpts from a speech Viteskic gave in San Francisco at an international conference on refugees. Also this fall, a photo essay by documentary photographer and writer Edward Serotta was on display in Perkins Library. "Survival in Sarajevo: How a Jewish Community Came to the Aid of its City" depicted the work of La Benevolencija, a multi-ethnic aid agency, run out of a synagogue. And National Public Radio correspondent Tom Gjelten--whom Viteskic credits with some of the best U.S. reporting on the war--spoke at Duke.


Because internationalization is a university priority, money is allotted in the annual budget toward such efforts. Outside funding helps, too. The Center for International Studies, for example, receives extensive grant money from the Department of Education, which allows faculty to develop undergraduate courses in international issues, brings foreign speakers and visiting faculty to campus, and supports international travel for faculty.

Still, fund raising is crucial to the success of the hundreds of initiatives already planned or under way. As assistant director for major projects in the university development office, Kay Mitchell Bunting B.S.N. '58 works to bring in big donors. With her associate, Jeff Yohn, Bunting has been given responsibility for selling Duke's international direction to prospective benefactors.

"Duke is not yet a household world internationally," she says. "We are probably better known internationally for the medical center rather than the university. But because this is a fairly new [development] initiative, we're reaching alumni and friends who have an interest in international affairs or have international connections themselves. It has captured the interest of people who may not have been turned on by other institutional needs."

For New York businessman Karl von der Heyden '61, a longtime supporter of other institutional endeavors, the prospect of heightening Duke's international status was especially appealing. A native of Germany, von der Heyden has worked for a number of major companies in the United States. He showed his support of cross-cultural alliances by donating $1 million to establish a program to bring world experts to Duke. The Karl von der Heyden Fellows Program is open to international leaders in business, government, public life, law, and academics. Granted the same privileges as visiting professors, fellows participate in graduate and undergraduate classes; meet with undergraduate, graduate, and professional students and faculty; and give public talks.

Increasingly a hub of international activity, bringing in and sending out citizens who are conversant in world economies, politics, literature, scientific developments, and social trends, Duke is poised to become an international powerhouse. It's a vision that looms just over the horizon.

"We will keep thinking 'international' until it's just part of what we do naturally," says Peter Lange. "And it's becoming much easier. Communication used to be a big problem, and now I'm on line everyday sending e-mail to people all over the world. So, part of why we're doing this a real university commitment, but part of it is just the way the world is. The world is becoming an entirely interdependent place. So it's not just that people say internationalization is important. It's that they know it's important."

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